Monday, December 2, 2013

Expansion: Your Mind, Not Your Waistline

This time of year calls for an expansion. Since the holiday season has begun, I have expanded my waistline a bit, for I have allowed my appetites to roam. This is a natural rhythm of the celebratory nature of the holidays, and so is the anxiety that it provokes. It got me thinking about how I can appease my mind and satisfy my cravings without the calorie intake.

I have always been a bit of the outsider during the holidays. Thanksgiving was not my family holiday due to the lifestyle change that my parents made when I was about eight years old. We became macrobiotic vegans, and there was no such thing as Tofurkey back then. I began to spend that holiday with other families, but did not consume with the largesse that I saw all around me.

My Jewish genetics put me on the sidelines at Christmas immediately. I remember being invited to my friend, Elizabeth Hanning's house, watching in awe at the explosion of tinsel, red and green wrapping, and the magic of the day of present opening. Since then I have explored midnight mass, and witnessed my fair share of nativity scenes. Still, no matter how included I am...I feel like an instant outsider at Christmas.

Hanukkah just didn't have that satisfying feeling. Stretched out over eight days and ensconced in meaning, my family celebrated, but my father was the rebel son of Orthodox Jews and somehow we were not a part of the festival of lights quite in the way that we could have been had my father adopted a more religious view. My mother was born in a displaced person's camp post-Holocost. She longed for the colorful array of gifts, not the limitation of blue and white, and there could never be a tree.

New Year's Eve became my solace. I decided that we could have our own day—a New Year's Day celebration! We would have the same opportunity. It would be non-denominational and practical. Since it was after Hanukkah and Christmas, we could hit the post-holiday sales, supplement the gifts we hadn't gotten, and have the holidays last longer. New Year's Eve became a staying-in holiday, and we would open new gifts for the New Year. Genius! My brother was not thrilled that he would have to wait an extra week or two for his gifts, but I thrived in the anticipation. This changed New Year's Eve for me. The last day of the year was a cozy night in, removing me from the late night partying that usually accompanies this night.

So, you see, for me the holidays have always been unique. Even my birthday, which comes on the heels of it all, gets overshadowed. People are done celebrating, slightly depressed that the holidays are over, and ready for football and awards season. I have learned to start my year slow. I ease into the New Year with that one extra holiday.

I know how it feels to be "special", "unique", "on the outside"...but I have learned to love that just as much. To remember that it's just another day, and to enjoy all of the different cultures and celebrations and rituals that surround me. I let myself be lifted and expanded by the differences. And satisfy my cravings for belonging by being true to me.

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